Waking up to Inflation

Waking up to Inflation

Ravi Shanker Kapoor After almost a decade of misrule, it has dawned on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that inflation is… well, something very bad. So, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram recently said that inflationary pressure and structural bottlenecks were hurting the growth process—something that was obvious to all but the entitlement-obsessed dogmatists. Chidambaram is little better than Rahul Gandhi who realized in the last week of December 2013 that fruits and vegetables should be exempted from the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act by January 15. The diktat to the Congress chief ministers was in response to the fact that fruits and vegetables have contributed much to food inflation. On the face of it, it is astonishing that a coalition that came to power for the sake of the aam aadmi remained oblivious to something that concern all sections of society, especially the poor. The numbers tell the story: retail inflation during four years (1999-2003) of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule was 3.1 per cent, while it was 6.1 per cent under UPA I and around 10 per cent under UPA II. These are the estimates by Zyfin, a financial information company. These figures prove beyond doubt that the UPA regime has been an unmitigated disaster for not only India Inc but also for the man in the street. Consider the irony: the fortunes of the grand old party revived on the premises that the NDA, under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was blind to the concerns of the poor, that it was preoccupied with growth and was insouciant about ‘inclusion,’ and that the need of the hour was ‘inclusive growth’—and what we get instead is jobless growth (60 million jobs during 1999-2004 and three million during 2004-10) and high inflation! Political consequences are also becoming evident; the GOP has been on a losing streak, despite its apparent solicitude for the ‘marginalized’ and the ‘downtrodden.’ So, now UPA grandees are waking up to such mundane issues like inflation and employment. They were so busy perfecting the right-oriented political philosophy and implementing its dogmas that it never occurred to them that high prices and dearth of jobs could hurt common people. The rural employment guarantee scheme,...

The Indecency of Decency

Ravi Shanker Kapoor That intolerance has become the defining feature of the governance becomes evident, if any more evidence was needed, from the so-called advisory the Information & Broadcasting Ministry recently issued to TV channels regarding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech this year. It may be the first ‘advisory’ in history that is accompanied with the threat of “penal provisions.” The ‘advisory’ said that “it had come to the notice of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting that certain TV channels attempted to denigrate the Office of the Prime Minister of India by constantly trying to compare the speech of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India with the speech of other political leaders on 15th August, 2013.” The charge is based on two assumptions. First, “the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India” is a heavenly figure whose utterances need to be grasped in a state of reverence, while other political leaders are lesser mortals. Second, comparison is denigration. While the first assumption is anti-democratic, the second one is outright arbitrary. The prime minister is not a celestial creature with a divine right to rule. Therefore, the Ministry’s contention militates against even the suppositions of the government. And it surely is an affront to basic principles of democracy: the prime minister is one of us and is elected by us; he enjoys the high office so long as we, the people of India, deem him fit to rule the country; he derives his powers from our consent, and not from gods as many kings claimed to do in the past. As for the second postulate, equating comparison with denigration is as idiotic as it is arbitrary. In fact, it is nothing but an abuse of language, just as calling a threat an ‘advisory.’ The operative part of the Ministry’s advisory was in the third paragraph: “…as per Section 5 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, read with Rule 6(1 Xa) & (i) of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, as amended from time to time, no programme can be transmitted/re-transmitted on any Cable Service which contains anything [that] offends against good taste or decency; and criticizes, maligns or slanders any individual in person or...

PC needs reboot – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

PC needs reboot – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is known as a liberalizer in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Though he hasn’t done as much as one would have expected him given the grim economic scenario and the grimmer fiscal deficit, he did manage to curtail some expenditure in the last fiscal; the revised estimate of total government expenditure was 96 per cent of the Budgetary estimate. But he has done too little and too late; his other Cabinet colleagues have either not done anything positive or have actually hurt the cause of the economy (remember Jairam Ramesh?). Yet, Chidambaram seems to believe that he would be able to convince global investors to come to India. He wants foreign direct investment (FDI) to flow into the country. Addressing the international media in New York, he recently said, “We as a country can easily absorb $50 billion investments [in] a year or more. In the hierarchy of foreign inflows FDI ranks first, followed by FII and external commercial borrowings. FDI is important to India too as in any other country.” Did you say $50 billion, Mr. Minister? Well, some reality check is called for. Consider the Posco project in Orissa as a paradigm case—the paradigm of the UPA regime’s perversity. The Korean steel major began its odyssey, or ordeal, around the same time the UPA came to power for the first time. It pledged to invest $12 billion. Typically, a rainbow coalition of professional revolutionaries, garrulous jholawallahs, incorrigible naysayers, and downright Luddites attacked the proposed steel plant. Worse, their opposition to the project does not emanate from a genuine concern for the locals, something that could have been sorted out; their resistance was is doctrinaire: the project is bad because it would ruin the environment, exploit the tribal people, etc. Period. No discussion, no dialogue. Posco has to go. What was even worse was the UPA government’s mollycoddling of the elements determined to drive Posco out of India. Ministers like Ramesh brazenly encouraged the radicals who are hell-bent on de-industrializing India. Then there are anti-business bigots in the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC). In July 2010, a 10-member committee under NAC member N.C. Saxena visited Orissa and...

Nitish visits ruins of socialist shibboleths – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Nitish visits ruins of socialist shibboleths – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar tried to achieve many goals at the recent rally in Delhi, but the portrait of the ambitious leader that emerges is not very flattering. As we shall see, his objectives, statements, and demands lack any novelty; any chief minister of any state could have said similar things 10, 20, or 30 years ago. It is an open secret that Kumar aspires for the office of Prime Minister, something that is being viewed with expectation by ‘secular’ parties, including the Congress. There were enough hints of Kumar’s ‘secularism’—many Muslim supporters sitting in the front row, an Urdu prayer, a placard thanking the Bihar government for providing land to the Aligarh Muslim University, and so on. The dominant theme, however, was his reiteration of the demand for the special status for Bihar. Unsurprisingly, histrionics were the hallmark of his address: “We are not begging for special status. It is our right.” In a bid to elicit support from Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan—the states which have earlier sought special status—Kumar said, “We are happy that UPA government has agreed in-principle to grant our demand. But now we want it to be implemented soon. Do it now or it will be inevitable after 2014 elections. Only he who holds the hands of backward states will sit in Delhi.” Kumar’s bombast and symbolism emanate from his dirigiste ideology. The basic premise of this ideology is that only a few divinely ordained Wise Men and Women in New Delhi know what is good for the country and the people. They are in-charge of all the resources; in their wisdom, they distribute or redistribute these resources to states which, in turn, have their own Wise Men and Women. Growth, development, progress—everything is a function of the wisdom of these divinely ordained beings. Problems do arise because of the differences among Wise Men and Women, despite their divinity. But these problems, according to the dirigiste canon, can be resolved by fine-tuning the terms of engagement. The fundamental flaw of this ideology is that the supposedly Wise Men and Women happen to be politicians, bureaucrats, and hangers-on; and one has to be gullible to expect wisdom...

Is this the Budget we want? – Pankaj Bhatiya

Is this the Budget we want? – Pankaj Bhatiya

This budget has once again amply proved the fact that with changing economic scenario the annual budget has lost its prestigious status as the most important annual event in terms of economic policy announcements by the government. Nowadays it is just a mere briefing on income expenditure statement of the government in current and coming financial year. On one hand the economic value of budget is going down, the political value is becoming much more significant. How else can we explain the over emphasis on the women in this budget after the inhuman act in national capital few months back? The victim’s family in this case is yet to get the due justice but the central government seems to have already done its part by naming the proposed Rs. 1000 Cr fund for women security & safety after Nirbhaya. Was the Delhi gang rape case a result of insufficient funds allocated for women security in India? Even a lay man can answer this correctly. Another women centric announcement of setting up India’s first women PSU bank with a capital of again Rs. 1000 Cr in the same budget is clear indication that the congress party is trying hard to retrieve its much battered image after Delhi gang rape as otherwise there is no viable economic reason behind this announcement. Shouldn’t lot of other more pressing issues in banking sector have got precedence over a Mahila PSU bank?  Are women of this country not getting desirable banking services by existing so called male dominated banking sector? Is the fairer sex being discriminated in access to best banking services? We are living in an India where some of the biggest private sector banks are being successfully headed by women and there is no dearth of women in senior executive ranks in PSU banks as well. Moreover all these banks are there in market for the business and to make profits (I assume this is true for PSU banks as well in changed competitive scenario) and why and how the hell any of these banks would like to discriminate on the basis of gender. One of the major cheer factors of this budget is the containment of...

The rape of reason – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The rape of reason – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The sentimentalist orgies our political masters indulged in following the rape and battering of a young physiotherapy student inside a moving bus in Delhi highlight their own insincerities and hypocrisies. Instead of coming up with something solid to make the country safer for women, they took recourse to tokenism, made stupid statements, and tried to derive political mileage from the agony of a tormented girl. Leading the pack was Congress president Sonia Gandhi who visited the hospital where the 23-year-old medical student is fighting for life. Sonia also wrote two letters to Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, in which she expressed indignation at the incident. “It’s a shame that these incidents recur with painful regularity and that our daughters, sisters, mothers are unsafe in the capital city,” she wrote in her letter to the Delhi Chief Minister. The letter to Shinde also echoed similar sentiments: “It’s a shame for all of us who are responsible for security of our cities. This monstrous crime deserves not only universal condemnation but also the government’s most urgent attention. It is imperative that the police and other agencies concerned are sensitized to the danger our daughters, sisters, mothers face every day. The security agencies must be motivated, trained and equipped to deal with this menace.” You are right, Mrs. Gandhi, but why the passive voice? Why “security agencies must be motivated, trained and equipped…”? Why not specify the subject―who’ll do this? How’ll they do this? And by what time they will be able to do this? After all, you have a tremendous say in the state of affairs; your political opponents even call you ‘super-prime minister.’ You wanted the rural employment guarantee scheme―it was chalked out and implemented. You want the food security legislation―and the government is furiously working on it, despite the reservations of important functionaries about it. You wanted reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes in promotion―and it’s there; even the Bharatiya Janata Party found it politic to support it. You just have to order; the government will do anything to please you in earnest. Thy will be done. Now that the gang rape has attracted “the government’s most urgent...

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